‘Don’t You Worry Baby The Best Is Yet To Come’ is a track that was first played at Blackpool Mecca in 1976 following the acquisition of a US promo from fabled Norfolk based Glaswegian record dealer John Anderson (Soul Bowl) by DJ Colin Curtis, and then a release copy via a London based supplier who specialized in importing new American releases to distribute to US Troops in Germany & Europe, specifically black GI’s with a love of Soul and Funk. The Northern Soul sessions at the Mecca were hugely influential, the club revered, along with Manchester’s Twisted Wheel, The Catacombs in Wolverhampton, The Golden Torch in Stoke-On-Trent, and the scene’s most famous venue, Wigan Casino, at the vanguard of the movement.
There was the famous Northern Soul schism in the mid-’70s, which was the result of the Mecca’s decision to include an increasing amount of contemporary Disco releases alongside ’60s Soul rarities, which put them completely at odds with the music policy in Wigan. Whilst most people have heard of Wigan Casino, it’s arguable that via its DJs, all-time greats Ian Levine and Colin Curtis (as well as Les Cokell and Tony Jebb before them), the Mecca’s more progressive approach to its music policy gave the club an edge. The Mecca opened normal club hours, 9pm-2am, but the Casino was an all-nighter from 2am–8am. As a consequence a number of people would leave the Mecca early, around 1am, to get to the Casino for opening. This led to the final hour at the Mecca becoming more experimental, and compilation albums have been made focusing purely on records that became popular there during this timeframe, ‘Don’t You Worry Baby The Best Is Yet To Come’ being one. In fact, when Colin was asked to list his Final Hour Top 10 by Soulvation, it came out at the top spot:
It’s such an obscure track that, unless you were there in Blackpool in ’76 it’s unlikely you’ll ever have heard of it – it was never issued in the UK. Bessie Banks, who sang the original, was best-known for her early ’60s recording ‘Go Now’, which was covered by the Moody Blues and became their breakthrough single, completely overshadowing the original on both sides of the Atlantic at the height of the British Invasion, depriving her of the crossover hit she’d hoped for. In the mid-’70s she was but a distant name from a misty past, even to many of those on the Soul scene, forlornly attempting to rekindle former glories by embracing the Disco direction that was gaining momentum. Given the fact that copies of the original are exchanging hands these days for around £400, you can be sure that very few sold at the time. In short, like many Northern classics, it completely stiffed on its US release. It was last chance saloon for Bessie Banks, the commercial failure of the single more or less the full stop on her recording career (she would however continue to sing Gospel into her more mature years).
The song was written by Clyde Otis and Banks’ husband of the time, Herman Kelly. Kelly’s name would subsequently become legendary within the Hip Hop community, his 1978 ‘Dance To The Drummer’s Beat’ break heavily sampled. Otis, the track’s producer, must have believed in the song, recording a markedly different more upbeat jazzier version with Sandy Barber 2 years on, whose album was also titled ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’. In recent years the label BBE has re-issued the album and put out some contemporary remixes.
Although I’d started DJing a few months before the release of ‘Don’t You Worry Baby’, as I’ve previously pointed out, Northern Soul never gained a foothold in Liverpool, the city grooving to a more contemporary Funk sound in the ’70s championed by DJs Les Spaine and Terry Lennaine. My knowledge of Northern Soul was very much surface, so a track such as this was a well-hidden gem that just wasn’t on my radar.
It wasn’t until 25 years later that I heard this wonderful tune. Pete Haigh, a Blackpool regular, and later a DJ on the Jazz-Funk scene who I worked alongside at many an all-dayer (which is also how I got to know Colin Curtis back in the early ’80s), compiled an album for Goldmine Records in 2000 called ‘Spirit Of The Mecca’, focusing on a selection of those final hour favourites, including ‘Don’t You Worry Baby’. I instantly fell in love with it.
For those who’ve heard me wax lyrical about The Reynolds, twins Katherine and Carmel, you’ll be left in no doubt about just how highly I rate this vocal force of nature. Their ability is literally uncanny, be it as soloists or as backing vocalists – their musical intelligence is off the scale, you just can’t learn this stuff, it’s intuitive. Their mother perhaps summed things up best when she remembered that ‘as babies they even used to cry in harmony’.
To discover a singer of this level of accomplishment, especially within your local area, is extremely rare – the fact there are two of them is four-leaf clover good fortune! It goes without saying that one of my main priorities moving forward is to record an album of material with these remarkable singers. They’re the constant element that links all the 8 Super Weird Substance releases this year (5 down 3 to go) – what they’ve brought to the table has been nothing less than a sonic banquet of timbre, texture and deftness of touch.
Carmel took the lead on the single that launched the label, ‘Summer Came My Way’, unleashing a sun-drenched slow groove anthem in the process. Katherine steps forward for ‘Don’t You Worry Baby The Best Is Yet To Come’, released today on Super Weird Substance, delivering an equally stunning vocal performance with control and nuance to match the power when called for. In a world where style has usurped substance, their voices unite these 2 qualities into a sound that resonates not only to the ears of the listener, but goes straight to their being. That’s what they used to call Soul, and without ever wanting to use that hallowed word in vain (so I don’t say this lightly) – The Reynolds have a whole lot of Soul to give, it’s undeniable.
This is a mature song, Bessie Banks had been around the block and back by this point, she knew life. She re-assures the listener that things are going to get better – maybe she’s trying to convince herself. There’s a melancholy – it’s not celebratory, it’s more concerned with strengthening your spirit and resolve, for there are still tough times ahead to navigate. It’s the hope that shines through in this song – the promise of a better tomorrow, as mother might say to her child.
Katherine’s vocal was everything I could have wished for and more – I was blown away, but I’m getting used to this where The Reynolds are concerned. Still only 21 – old heads, young hearts, they never cease to amaze me! Then there’s their own special touch, additional bvox not heard on the original, but which sound like they’ve always been there (these also feature my wife Tracey Carmen, whose mentoring of the girls during recent years has given them the firm foundations from which, I’m sure, their singing careers will flourish).
What made me zoom in on ‘Don’t You Worry Baby’ as a potential cover was the enhanced relevance of the lyrics in a time of increasing unsurety. One line that jumped out might have seemed quaint a decade ago, when issues of class weren’t being discussed so much, but now the rich have gotten richer at the expense of the poorest in our society, who continue to be squeezed by harsh austerity measures, ‘you won’t need no handouts, you’ll earn your silver spoon’ all of a sudden takes on fresh context.
So having decided on the song and identified the singer, it was a case of turning this idea into reality, being respectful to the original, whilst making the necessary bass enhancement to bring the song right up to date.
During recent years one of the most prolific DJs out there in terms of quality reworks has been Peza, who proudly hails from Wolverhampton. I first became aware of him when he sent me a rework he’d made of ‘Stupid Girl’ by Garbage back in 2012. I really liked it but I felt there was a part that let it down where it seemed a bit empty and could do with some keyboard love. He was totally receptive to my suggestion and sent back a version to my specifications almost immediately, which I went on to play throughout that year. I’ve come to associate Peza with working quickly and decisively – an extremely talented musician as well as an expert programmer, he, in short, provides a one-stop shop where I can get most aspects of the backing recorded.
Following the Garbage rework I picked up on a great Human League ‘Being Boiled’ he’d done soon after, and then, for the next few years I benefitted from an increasing supply of Peza reworks – he was clearly someone I connected with musically. This led me to approach him to put together a few bespoke reworks for me to play out – these would subsequently appear on limited vinyl via the A&R Edits label, the most notable being his takes on ‘Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes On Me’ by Sister Sledge (another Mecca favourite) and ‘Walking In Rhythm’ by The Blackbyrds.
His association with Super Weird Substance began when we got him to rework ‘The Construct’ from the ‘Blind Arcade Meets Super Weird Substance In The Morphogenetic Field’ mixtape (where we first utilized The Reynolds). As ever he did a top job – you can stream / download here:
He’s now become an integral part of the Super Weird crew, and has played on, programmed and co-mixed no less than 5 of the first 8 releases on the label. There’s an interview with Peza at the SWS website:
There wasn’t a 12” or extended version of the Bessie Banks original, it had only ever been issued as a three and a half minute 7” single. For the club version I imagined the type of arrangement that might have been done had they extended for an album or 12” (it’s release was at the very point in time the first commercially available 12” singles began to appear).
In that pre-12” climate you’d often get a Part 2 continuation on the flip side of the 7” single (or 45 to use the American terminology), only the LP was able to house the full unbroken version – the single, due to radios preference for an average 3 minute ideal, allowing limited time. These Part 2’s, especially popular with Philadelphia International, the great dance label of the proto-Disco years, would generally be less song structured and more instrumentally based, grooving you along real nice, letting you take in the sounds and the vibes, before reprising the vocal for a final flourish. That’s what I wanted for ‘Don’t You Worry Baby’ – I was thinking of stuff like George McCrae’s ‘Rock Your Baby’, ‘The Love I Lost’ by Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, and Gloria Gaynor’s ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’, where the excellence of the much-loved single versions are further enhanced by these extended excursions.
It was with some slight trepidation that the first DJ I sent the track to was the guy who’d unearthed the original, Colin Curtis – it was only right. I was confident enough about the quality of what we’d done to have brushed it off if he’d have been negative in his feedback, but it would have been an undoubted blow, so you can imagine how happy I was to receive an email from him with the message ‘not a bad effort for a white boy :-), a song that is very dear to my heart!’. A few days later he opened his House Of Soul podcast with The Reynolds version – a huge endorsement!:
The Reynolds Interviewed: